S u m m a r y
|Title, Description &
||Valkyrie: North American's Mach 3
Superbomber by Dennis Jenkins and Tony Landis
||Hardcover; 10" x 10" format; 276
glossy pages; color and black & white illustrations throughout
from Specialty Press
||Hundreds of photographs, extensively
researched, excellent technical history, details planned defense
systems, assembly photography
||A couple small editing gaffes
Reviewed by Daryl
Valkyrie is available online from
Despite its extremely brief "operational" life, the exotic North
American XB-70 Valkyrie has earned a large cult following. 40 years
later, it gets the full song-and-dance treatment in a glossy, 276-page
hardcover book, packed with rare photographs.
first few chapters branch off to describe other interlocking projects.
First up is the Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion project that languished from
1945 all the way to 1961. Chapter 3 is an extensive essay on the
Republic F-103 and North American F-108 interceptors. Both were designed
from the beginning to use interchangeable components with the B-70..
Chapter 2 lays down the history of post-W.W.II bomber development and
the reasons behind General Lemay's desire for an all-B-70 bomber force.
It also explains why the manned bomber was so heavily resisted at the
time, and describes the Boeing and North American proposals.
Chapter 4 describes the high-energy, or "zip" fuels in development at
the time. It also reviews the engine competition, and the early testing
of the selected GE
Chapter 5 covers the political wrangling that finally killed the B-70
and reduced production to two prototypes. Furthermore, it describes the
assembly of the two aircraft, and the innovations required to overcome
Chapter 6 is the largest section, and covers the entire flight test
program, from rollout in 1964 to the delivery of aircraft #1 to the USAF
museum. Many close calls are described, and some were a doozy.
These range from landing gear failing to extend or retract, to sections
of the outer skin being ingested by the engines.
The tragic mid-air collision that killed Joe Walker and XB-70 co-pilot
Carl Cross is described in depth, those the authors don't place blame on
any one individual or organization. The complete summary accident report
is included instead.
Chapter 7 offers a good technical overview of the two prototypes and
their systems. Everything about the Valkyrie was cutting edge; from the
variable geometry air intakes, folding wingtips, stainless steel
honeycomb skin, and a 4,000-psi hydraulic system, it resembled less a
real aircraft, and more a Buck Rodgers spaceship. This chapter does an
admirable job putting it all together.
The final chapter was a bit of a surprise, as it covers the offensive
and defensive systems planned for the operational B-70. It begins with a
fascinating treatise covering the development of a working
stellar-inertial navigation system, and how it was to be integrated into
the finished aircraft.
It continues on to detail the planned defensive systems, such as
rearward-firing nuclear-tipped anti-aircraft missiles, tungsten pellets
that could be sprayed at incoming missiles, and the bizarre "pye wacket"
lenticular missile. The final part details electronic countermeasures,
infrared reduction, the Skybolt ballistic missile, and the conceived
"alert pod" ground power system.
There are also several appendixes. The first is a log of all 129
flights, compiled by the NASA Flight Research Center. The second is an
excerpt from test pilot Al White's previously unpublished Flight Test
Summary Report. A third reproduces Fitz Fulton's (another xb-70 pilot)
essay Lessons For A Supersonic Transport. Finally, there's a list of
"interesting facts" from various press releases on the aircraft.
As with all of Jenkin's books, this title is profusely illustrated. I
must give the authors credit for their research skills, considering that
much of the documentation has been lost after 40 years and two mergers.
All photographs are reproduced at high resolution and are, for the most
part, quite clear. Many were unknown to me up till now, particularly the
three-view drawings of the early Boeing concepts, as well as most of the
operations manual graphics.
Tony Landis has provided many three-view artworks of the xb-70 and the
F-108, and there are quite a few computer-generated artworks created
specifically for this book. In total, there are about 500 photos (about
~70 in color) and dozens of illustrations. I have no doubt that modelers
will eat up the numerous images (some in color!) of the aircraft under
construction and undergoing maintainence.
Though still highly technical in nature, this book was a brisker read
for me compared to Jenkin's earlier work. Typos and editing gaffes have
been reduced, with one notable exception. As an engineer, he refuses to
indulge in partisan ranting (there's nothing quite like a good aviation
history ruined by a political polemic).
There's one notable exception to the quality of this title. At the end
of chapter 2:
White also told his staff that Eisenhower Administration believed that
no large sums of money should be committed to the B-70 program before
At which point the narrative crashes to a halt and Chapter 3 begins. Was
the original author shot dead while looting the Boeing archives? I'll
As far as I know, no serious attempt at a full technical history of the
Valkyrie has ever been published. The authors have succeeded with flying
colors and have raised the bar quite high for those writing their own
books on the B-70. This is simply one of the best single-aircraft
histories published in the last few years.
Review Copyright © 2004 by
This Page Created on 27 December, 2004
Last updated 27 March, 2005
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